The Bean Trees | Study Guide

Barbara Kingsolver

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The Bean Trees | Chapter 2 : New Year's Pig | Summary



Lou Ann Ruiz, a Kentucky girl who married Angel Ruiz and moved with him to Tucson, is pregnant with their first child. Lou Ann and Angel are having some difficulties in their relationship, and Lou Ann has been thinking about a divorce without doing anything about it. They had been having these difficulties since Angel was in a car accident three years before that resulted in the amputation of the lower part of one of his legs.

Lou Ann goes to see her obstetrician Dr. Pelinowsky for her seven-month check-up and takes the bus home, stopping at Lee Sing's market on her way. Lee Sing, a Chinese woman, tells Lou Ann that she must be pregnant with a girl because she is carrying the baby so high up. To Lee Sing, bearing a female child is like feeding a neighbor's New Year's pig since, "in the end, it goes to some other family." When Lou Ann arrives home, she realizes that Angel has left her. He doesn't leave a note, but from the empty spaces left by objects that Angel took with him, Lou Ann understands that he isn't planning to return.


The chapters focusing on Lou Ann are told in the third person, as if the first-person narrator of the first chapter, Taylor Greer, is describing Lou Ann's life, even though Taylor and Lou Ann haven't yet met. Lou Ann is always seen from an external perspective, which allows the narrator to describe Lou Ann's personality and the causes of her actions. In this chapter, the reader learns that Lou Ann is a woman who will carry on doing what she believes she is supposed to do, whether or not she truly wishes to do it. For example, Lou Ann knew her marriage with Angel had problems and had thought about a separation since before she became pregnant, but she took no action that would create that separation.

The narrator characterizes this as "Lou Ann's method," and the events described in this chapter develop this as a key feature of Lou Ann's personality: Things happen to Lou Ann; she does not make things happen. When Angel is injured in the car accident, Lou Ann gives up her job to help keep him content. Even though she wants to separate from him, she becomes pregnant and continues their unhappy marriage. Lou Ann had moved far away from her Kentucky family, but she thinks it wasn't "entirely her fault." Lou Ann feels that she shares almost everything with Angel, so she is fascinated to see what objects he feels are "his," and the narrator says that "[i]t revealed more to her about his personality ... than she had learned during their whole marriage." Lou Ann is characterized as moving through a world that affects her, while she does little to direct the currents of her own life.

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